One of my biggest learnings from this process so far is about the distance between the logical and the emotional brain. I've explained before that I know in my logical brain that the infidelity was not about me, my shortcomings, or someone being better and more attractive than I am. It's my emotional brain that still can't quite get the message. So I want to go deeper through my logical brain to see if I can break through to my emotional brain on the other side.
When I was listening to Jared Fried's episode of the CHEATIES podcast earlier this week, Jared said that "cheating is an attempt to get yourself right in the wrongest way possible". I think that's something we can all relate to. We ALL go through hard times. Everyone's got shit. And we struggle with our individual issues both before and during relationships. I've always been pretty open about my inner demons, mostly because they were pretty visible earlier in my life and sometimes affected my abilities at school and work. I've also gotten generally positive feedback when I'm honest and vulnerable about my struggles. This might not be a universally popular statement, but I believe that part of the reason for the positive reactions is that I'm a woman.
While I would never say that it's easier to be a female, I do believe, from my experience, that women are more encouraged to be in touch with their emotions and to be vulnerable in relationships. Men are generally discouraged from being emotional and/or vulnerable for the majority of their lives. Then they get into long-term relationships and suddenly someone is expecting them to be in touch with how they are REALLY feeling, open and communicative about these emotions, and completely self-aware about why they are acting or feeling a certain way. This is an over-generalization, surely. But I've heard many more female friends say "I'm feeling icky in the gym today and I think it's because my boss was critical of me this week", for example, while men tend to project that everything is fine until it all blows up.
Back to cheating. I know (in both my logical and emotional brains) that I'm not the easiest person to love and live with. I tend to over-react; I take compliments the wrong way; and I am very particular about how I like the bathroom cleaned, laundry folded, and fridge organized. And I know that none of those things excuse infidelity, but I am self-aware enough to know that my husband didn't blow up a perfect union. I'm coming to terms with the fact that he was struggling in ways that both did and didn't directly affect and stem from our relationship. He had life experiences both before and during our relationship that affected him and he brought his own issues to the table. And I believe that he had never been given nor had he embraced the tools to be able to verbalize and explore these issues. I know it's 2020 and there are many men who are open to therapy before they hit rock bottom. My husband is not one of those men.
Going back to Jared's quote and insight into the male mind: "cheating is an attempt to get yourself right in the wrongest way possible". While I cannot speak for my husband's exact experience, I think that it all came down to attention. I believe that deep down he knew that what he was doing was wrong but his desire for attention overrode that guilt. Looking at it through a lens of empathy, I can relate to self-destructive behaviors (over-exercising, bingeing on sweets, drinking too much) that I know are wrong but do anyway for different reasons: to numb, to escape, to control. Obviously I wish he'd started a daily cupcake habit (a la Paul Rudd in This in 40) instead, but we all have our different demons.
I think it all comes down to communication. Ugh. We're all told to communicate but never told specifically how to communicate certain things and, due to shame, stigmatization, and other factors from our pasts, sometimes we don't even know what we need! So how can we communicate what we need if we don't know or are terrified? I think a trifecta of therapy, really good friends, and trust. I'm using all of those things to "get myself right" and we're working together in our relationship to do the same. This stuff isn't simple and it is usually really messy. But if we lean into the mess, I'm hopeful that we can all get ourselves right in the best way possible, little by little.